VANCOUVER, BC – Could Vancouver Whitecaps FC youngster Gershon Koffie have a career as a holding midfielder?
The 21-year-old has primarily played as a box-to-box player during his over two years in MLS, but as his strength and aggression become more apparent, perhaps his role lies deeper, just in front of the back four.
Over the weekend, Koffie showed a glimpse of what that could look like long term. He displayed intelligence and decisiveness off the ball, and composure on it after head coach Martin Rennie picked him ahead of Jun Marques Davidson, who was available after serving a one-game ban.
That lineup selection was a break from the usual pattern, which saw Davidson start there, or at a push Nigel Reo-Coker. On two other occasions Brad Rusin, normally a centre back, has also lined up in the position.
Reo-Coker is easily capable of playing the role, but when he's asked to play the disciplined role of a defensive midfielder, that hurts his ability to drive play forward from midfield.
While Davidson is experienced in the position, Koffie offers a different dimension, and while the Ghanaian does line up as the holding player, his ability to join the attack when appropriate creates a more fluid situation for the midfield.
"We're lucky we've got the options we have," Reo-Coker said over the weekend. "We've got so many great players we can play and interchange and the difference with Gershon, Daigo [Kobayashi], myself, is we have the ability to interchange."
"It's not one designated player doing that deep role," he continued. "All three of us have the ability to do that and that's a slight different advantage we've had in playing that three as as [opposed to] playing with different other players."
As for his coach, Rennie suggests it's a position that could make sense for his young star to learn given where the player's strengths lie.
"That's one of his best performances for a long time," Rennie said of Koffie's performance in the role over the weekend. "He did so much of the things we were asking him to do. I was really pleased with him. I thought that also contributed to our possession. We had the ball a lot more and kept the ball a lot better and he was a part of that."
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.